A Message to the USC Community from President Folt

June 11, 2020

Dear Trojan Community,

This moment is our Call to Action, a call to confront anti-Blackness and systemic racism, and unite as a diverse, equal, and inclusive university. You have asked for actions, not rhetoric, and actions, now. Input from students, staff, faculty leadership, deans, our terrific diversity liaisons, our Culture Commission, alumni leaders, and neighbors has been pouring into my office, providing the basis for our first actions.

These six actions will be launched immediately:

  • Removal of the name Von KleinSmid from the Center for International and Public Affairs – Yesterday, the executive committee of the USC Board of Trustees unanimously voted to remove the name and bust of Rufus Von KleinSmid from a prominent historic building on the University Park Campus. Both were removed last night. Students, faculty, staff, and the Nomenclature Policy Committee have pushed for this for years. He was the University’s fifth President, for 25 years. He expanded research, academic programs, and curriculum in international relations. But, he was also an active supporter of eugenics and his writings on the subject are at direct odds with USC’s multicultural community and our mission of diversity and inclusion. Temporarily, the building will be called The Center for International and Public Affairs. We will soon begin an inclusive process to rename the building.
  • Community Advisory Board for the Department of Public Safety (DPS) – A Community Advisory Board for DPS was recommended in 2015 by the Provost’s Taskforce on Diversity and Inclusion, but was never fully implemented. We now will implement this, administered by the Provost, reporting directly to me. We need to update and restate the mission. It will be an independent voice advising the university on best practices regarding safety, policing, and the engagement of DPS with our community. The board will include faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and stakeholders in our neighborhoods. It will look at racial and identity profiling, partnerships with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), financial resources, officer training, education, and disciplinary matters. We are seeking input now on the most effective structure and will have it up and running in a couple of weeks.
  • President’s and Provost’s Taskforce on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – This was formed in 2015 by the Provost. It brought about a number of changes, including having deans appoint diversity liaisons in each school and making USC’s diversity demographic data available online. The committee recommended more than 20 actions, but some were not implemented. After broad consultation, I will charge a new committee of students, faculty, and staff to evaluate and strengthen our support for DEI programs. Its top priority will be to identify structural and institutional processes that perpetuate racism and inequality. The committee will help us develop new initiatives, such as mandatory training programs on implicit bias and sensitivity, curricular and extra-curricular offerings on racism, and community building for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors.
  • Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO) – This position has been strongly recommended by our community.I have asked Provost Chip Zukoski and our senior vice president of Human Resources, Felicia Washington, to define the scope of this critical role, with guidance from the diversity liaisons and members of the Trojan community. The Provost and the senior vice president will oversee the search to identify the right candidate, whom we hope to have in place by fall. The CDEIO will be part of my senior leadership team.
  • Space and Programming for Underserved Students – Last fall, I asked our vice president for Student Affairs, Winston Crisp, and our Student Affairs team to develop a multi-year proposal to expand on-campus spaces and programmatic support for our student cultural communities. As a first step, we will open new student spaces in the fall on two floors of the Student Union to better serve our underrepresented students. We are launching a new program, First Generation Plus, to provide support and resources for first generation, spring and transfer students as well as our Dreamers. We are also in the first stage of developing more space and programming for our Black, Asian Pacific American, Latinx/Chicanx, Veterans, LGBTQ+ students, Former Foster Youth, Native American, and Middle Eastern students.
  • Mandatory Unconscious Bias Training – We urgently need training to raise awareness of conscious and unconscious biases. Our students and others are already developing programs, and I have asked SVP Washington to work with all of you – students, faculty, diversity officers, and staff to develop an online program for fall semester. This is just the first of many initiatives we’ll be undertaking in this area.

These are just the first actions. We are committed to the longer journey. There is so much we can do together. I am grateful and honored to be your President.

Respectfully yours,

Carol L. Folt
President

 

cc: President’s Senior Leadership Team
Academic Deans
Provost’s Leadership Team
Academic Senate
Staff Assembly
GSG President
USG President